Saturday, February 28, 2009

Standard Show For The Philippines, Kids And All

Okay... not quite this bad, but anyone who lives in The Philippines knows that every weekend at every fiesta on every stage — usually as an intermission act — a troupe of (usually pre-pubescent) girls (or occasionally boys) gets up on stage and does a choreographed dry hump in front of everybody in town from the oldest lady to the youngest baby.

I've wondered before whether the Filipino parents would "get it" if I started tossing ping pong balls at their 10-year-old daughters gyrating up on stage. Ah well... it's just another "poke society in the eye and piss people off" fantasy I have.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Daily Report(s): Slow Week

Nothing much has happened on Tuesday, Wednesday, or today. Mostly just sitting around, getting some work done... but not much. The movers will be here on Saturday, and we'll hopefully be all moved in by Saturday night... with the finishing touches on Sunday.

My bike should finally be finished tomorrow. Hopefully. I really do need it for this weekend. I'm not complaining really about how long it took to get it fixed, because most of the time I've gone out of the house in the past three weeks, I've come back with big piles of stuff that I couldn't have carried on my motorcycle anyway. Same with driving out to Jasaan too: We always had big armloads of stuff to carry. Now though, I do need it to get around.

On Tuesday night, I called to see if the water was working in the house yet. It wasn't. That was starting to really annoy/worry me, the thought of moving into a house with no water. I sent off a very diplomatically-worded text message to my landlords expressing my "concern over the situation" that had first been brought to their attention a month ago. Subtle. Fortunately, our landlords grasp the concept of subtle, and by Wednesday morning, water was flowing to all three floors of the house.

I halted construction on the bed that I ordered from the furniture maker. He called saying that the bed, the way it is, would not be able to be moved into the master bedroom through any of the currently available doors or windows, and he wanted to make some changes so that it would. Instead of trying to explain, understand, and agree to these changes over the phone, I told him to hold work until I could stand in front of the bed being made and visualize what he was talking about.

So, the house is pretty much all set for the move. Epril and I spent a fair bit of money getting the place set up, but most of the things (aside from the paint, water heaters, and air conditioner) belong to us, and will be with us when we leave. We finally will have pretty much everything we need to furnish a home wherever we may move to. The only things that still need to be purchased are some lamps, a dining room set, and curtains for the master bedroom. (And of course a hundred other little things that we don't realize we need yet.)

Oh: Epril finally watched an Austin Powers movie. With the accents, and all of the America-centric / era-centric / ethno-centric humor: Filipinos don't get it. The visual humor though... she got that.

I've been sleeping like crap lately. I tried replacing my evening alcoholic beverages with juice for a while (spiced up tomato juice is my drink of choice). Giving up my 2 or 3 nightly shots was easy enough to do, but exchanging the calming effect of alcohol for the pick-me-up effect of fruits and vegetables is definitely not conducive to falling asleep... especially when you've spent 20 years using nightcaps to put yourself down. Caffeine-free diet root beer seems to be okay though. I'll probably stick with that.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Daily Report: Big Tent

We woke up in our new bedroom at about 8:00 in the morning. Kid Sister Ednil was in the house and she made coffee for me. Other than some cocks crowing, our new neighborhood isn't noisy during the morning hours either. Unfortunately, there was no water in the house for showering.

Uncle Bob showed up at 9:00 with a new electrician in tow. I showed him where I wanted the hot water heaters installed. Then, our new landlords (Jams and Maggie Dumalag are their names) arrived and we went over some bits and pieces about the house that still needed their attention... most importantly (for the tenth time or so), I stressed the fact that there was still no water.

From there, Epril and I caught a Jeepney to the furniture maker where I informed him that the size of the mattress in our bedroom was 60 inches... not 54, as he was designing the bed to accommodate. (I really shudder at what the final pieces are going to look like.) Then, we caught a Jeepney to Limketkai mall, where we had lunch at Shakeys Pizza, which I had not had before. Not too bad.

Then it was off to Balita Marketing, a store which seems to sell primarily plastics: Plastic furniture, plastic padding, plastic tiles, tarps, foam rubber, as well as fabric and bits and pieces of home improvement hardware. We bought what people here in The Philippines call a "Cebu tent" (so you know what to ask for), while we back in the states, I suppose, would call it a pavilion: Four poles holding up a pyramid-shaped canvas roof. It's going to go up on the roof to cover the patio up there, 4 meters by 4 meters... surprisingly inexpensive. Also, Balita Marketing are going to do the upholstery for the couch cushion.

From there, it was back home. I went back to sleep while Epril went out and picked up the foam cushion from Mandaue Foam and dropped it off at Balita, and then got her nails done. There is no doubt about it: The new house is heart-healthy, with two sets of steep stairs to get to my office. Going up and down those stairs all day yesterday was a fair workout... and I'll be getting that workout every day once we move in for good.

I spent most of the evening watching Discovery Channel(s), which reminds me... we haven't gotten the satellite television hooked up yet at the new house.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Daily Report: First Night In The New House

Epril and I went out to Kingston Lodge (just for a change) for lunch, and then we hired a guy in the neighborhood who owns a van to drive us out to the jungle with all of our new stuff. Along the way, we stopped at Mandaue Foam where I ordered the foam cushions for the new couch. Then we stopped at the furniture maker where, unfortunately, I found that the plans (drawn exceptionally well, I can say... a skill I have, ask my parents) for the couch were changed/ignored. "It will be stronger this way," said the furniture maker. He knew he had made changes though without asking me, and when I insisted he do it the way that the diagram said, he shit-canned the whole thing and started over without argument.

We got to the house and I tried hooking my wireless router to the internet. Unfortunately, the ISP noted the change in hardware configuration from "Epril's laptop talking to the antenna" to "Epril's laptop talking through a router to the antenna", and kicked me over to a login screen. Unfortunately, when the service guy came to install the internet last week, he didn't give Epril a username or password. So I need to get one.

The water still isn't working in the house. There is a big cistern on the roof that is supposed to fill up but doesn't because the pump has been disconnected. The water pressure up on the hill in Jasaan is so low that when the cistern is empty and the water is fed directly to the taps, there is only a trickle of water on the first floor and none on the second and third.

Uncle Bob and Auntie Puring have been awesome during this move. Two nicer and genuine people you couldn't hope to meet. They've been helping out around the house, putting up the paintings I bought and cleaning up. They enlisted their son to put a coat of paint on the fence out front, and he has been doing guard duty at the house, sleeping on the couch in the living room overnight to make sure nobody breaks in.

Epril and I had the family over for dinner at the new house, and then we spent our first night in our new bedroom; a test run if you will, with our new sheets and comforter and pillows. The new bedroom... the new neighborhood actually... is very quiet at night. Quaintly so. It's the kind of small-town atmosphere you suspect your parents and grandparents grew up in: The warm darkness, with the neighbors sitting outside chatting together, kids watching television inside. In the distance, we could hear a religious gathering singing hymns at the bandstand in the park. The mayor of Jasaan came walking by on an evening stroll with a small group of other men, and stopped to chat with us for a few minutes. Some dogs barked here and there, and a scooter went by on occasion, but mostly it was just quiet.

Epril and I settled down in our new bedroom at about 10:30. There aren't curtains on the big windows yet, but the new air conditioner was installed and cooled the room, and very little light fell directly on the windows of our bedroom, so the place was dark and sleep was excellent.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Daily Report: Humming Along

Epril speed tested the cellular internet at the new house today: 327 Kbps up and 339 down. That's fantastic... especially for $20 per month. And it will (should) only go down as often as the cellular network goes down... which is close to never here. (As a point of comparison, the cable internet here at the current house tested at 502 Kbps up and 236 down... and I've been paying $100 per month, and it goes down once or twice per month for an hour or two at a time, and an additional once or twice per week for 10 or 15 minutes at a time.)

Epril and Susan did some packing and moving today... mostly decor and the first bits of Epril's now-considerable wardrobe. (She has more shirts than the next 20 people put together... but at least she never pays more than $4 or $5 for a shirt, and they are nice shirts, so it's not too bad.) The girls hired one of the local vans that drives folks around the neighborhood for the day to drive them out to Jasaan with the first load: $14 for the trip.

I had a chili dog from Jollibee for lunch, and some bar-be-que chicken for dinner. I bought some Hershey's strawberry syrup after discovering that it was a key ingredient for fruit shakes in the local restaurants... thinking that it might be a viable alternative to fresh strawberries (which don't exist here) in strawberry margaritas. Wrong. Very wrong. God I miss Bob's strawberry margaritas.

Several people have asked me why I always wear a bandanna. Simple reason actually: Upon moving to Thailand 6 years ago, I discovered that as I've aged, I've developed the sweatiest scalp in history... day or night, as long as the weather is anything warmer than cool. (I perspire no where else on my body either... just up top.) Being bald, that meant I was always trying to keep sweat out of my eyes. I started off by always wearing a black newsboy cap that I had (I hate baseball caps), and that did an okay job of soaking it up. Then I started driving a motorcycle and wearing a helmet, so the hat got left behind and I went for a couple of years just walking around with constantly-soaked shirtsleeves. My friend Rick always wore a bandanna out in the sun, so I tried that, and have stuck with it ever since. And yes, since it has become a sort of "visual leitmotif" or distinguishing feature by which people remember me, I suppose I wouldn't give it up unless forced to do so. And no, it's not because I'm self-conscious about being bald: I started losing my hair when I was 16 years old; that was an emotional hassle settled long ago.

Epril squeals and giggles whenever these "Jonas Brothers" come on TV (which seems to be constantly). They don't seem particularly good looking or talented when compared to boy bands from the past. Well, if anybody knows any redeeming value they might hold, or any worthwhile songs they might have written, I'd be happy to know about it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Daily Report: Getting There

Wednesday was a little better in terms of my illness: Only hitting the jakesevery 2 hours now. Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful day. The furniture guy wants 37,000 for the furniture. The nice thing is that Epril and I will own a bed now, and a couch and other furniture. In Thailand, almost all the places for rent or for sale are furnished. Not so in The Philippines.

Today, out in Jasaan, the internet guys arrived to do their installation. I wasn't there, but Epril surprised me by sending me a text message saying "they're here" and then 5 minutes later saying, "they're gone." During that time, they slapped the antenna system on the outside of my office wall, ran a wire through the window, and plugged the network cable into the back of Epril's computer. That was it.

Now, all that is left is the satellite television installation, getting the hot water heaters installed, getting the new furniture finished, buying a couple more bits and pieces (TV stand for the TV room, a few lamps, some potted plants), and then moving everything from the old house to the new. I expect the small stuff to be moved this weekend, and the big stuff to be moved next weekend... March 1st. I know you're all excited to see what the place looks like. I'll get pictures put up once everything is in place.

I'm waiting to get my motorcycle back from this fellow, Jun. I dropped it off a couple of weeks ago. We gave up on trying to get the two Xenon headlights to stop draining the battery all the time... and they didn't work that well anyway because the headlight bezel didn't reflect the light properly. So, I'm going back to the two halogen headlights, plus adding two more down near the front forks. The parts for the rear disc brakes took 2 weeks to locate, which was the main holdup, but the bike should be done soon... hopefully. Also, there are these two "vents" on either side of the bike, up near the front, pointing backwards. I'm going to put some red lights inside those and hook them up to the turn signals. We'll see how that works. At least I won't have to take another jeepney to Jasaan. I hate those things.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dubai Buy Bye

It did always strike me as a bit of a strange place, Dubai. But I always thought it was going to be the petrochemical industry's version of Brasilia: The people in charge find a spot in the middle of nowhere and declare, "This is where it all will happen." Their employees don't have a choice and go obligingly to the middle of nowhere and get to work.

Apparently not.

Apparently, Dubai was supposed to be the Muslim world's version of Las Vegas: Get rich people to come out to the middle of the desert to have fun and spend vast quantities of money. Only with no gambling, no prostitutes... no real expectation of any kind of off-the-wall "what happens in Dubai stays in Dubai" experiences.


What Dubai actually is... or was: Branson, Missouri for billionaires.

This article sums it up nicely:
Dubai is a place for the shallow and fickle. Tabloid celebrities and worn out sports stars are sponsored by swollen faced, botox injected, perma-tanned European property developers to encourage the type of people who are impressed by fame itself, rather than what originated it, to inhabit pastiche Mediterranean villas on fake islands. Its a grotesquely leveraged version of time-share where people are sold a life in the same way as being peddled a set of steak knives.
Now the Dubai real estate market is crashing in a big way. Investors and homeowners are literally fleeing the country as they realize that they face jail time if they default on their mortgages. It'll probably become the world's biggest ghost town (putting the 213,000 Filipinos living there out of work). The nice thing is that apartments in the world's tallest building (twice as tall as the Sears Tower), the Burj Dubai, may actually become affordable.

By the way, here's an excellent forecast by some economic experts about what to expect from the worldwide economy over the next decade. It ain't pretty.

Daily Report: Got My House In Ordure

I'm still a bit sick — at least in my bottom half — with every-30-minute trips to the bathroom. That's bad enough, but of all the days that it could happen, the housing development decided to shut off everyone's water to do work on the pipes. I used up my 3 bathrooms' 3 flushes very early on. Since then... well, let's not discuss that**.

Epril is in Jasaan working on the house. The appliances from yesterday were delivered, and the plumber, electrician, and furniture maker were all there today doing a little work. I'm not paying for the electrical work or plumbing work that needs to be done. My landlord decided to take my own sprucing up of his house (which I'm paying for in exchange for reduced rent) as an opportunity to do some needed repairs.

I bought a pizza today. Since I'm home alone, and I've got a bug, I'm not keen on eating much. I know that a pizza sounds contraindicated in that circumstance, but it's good because I can eat one slice every 5 or 6 hours over a period of a couple of days... no preparation, dirtying dishes, or anything like that.

I climbed into bed at around 7:00 and ate pumpkin seeds and watched TV until 10. Mostly American Chopper. I'm starting to wonder why I like that show.

** (Actually, I finally gave up and used the 10-liter jug of bottled water to flush. It's a moderately expensive alternative at about 50 cents per flush... but a thousand times better than option B.)

Daily Report(s): Catching Up Some More

Okay... sorry Mom... sorry. Here comes some more.

On Wednesday, February 11th, Epril and I went to Phileas Fogg restaurant in the morning, where Epril became a founding member (and Treasurer) of The Expatriates' Ladies Charity Association.

On Thursday, February 12th, we didn't do anything special... although we did get some shopping done.

On Friday, February 13th, Epril and I first went to the internet office. They were supposed to call me at some point during the past week to set up an appointment for installation at the new house, and hadn't. So I paid them a visit to see what the holdup was. They apologized for the mixup and said they would contact me at once. (As of the time of this writing, they still haven't contacted me. I smell a problem a-brewing.) From there, we went to the satellite TV place and purchased a system for our house in Jasaan. (The local cable company doesn't go out that far.) It was 9,000 pisos ($190) for the dish, the receiver, and 10 months' subscription. (Only drawback: They only get 40 channels... but at least all my favorites.) Then it was off to Spooks Friday Night expatriate get-together just for a change. From there, it was off to visit with Mike and Marissa Turner. Then, Epril and I went to the Divisoria to find some DVD's. Epril has never seen any of the Austin Powers movies. Strangely enough, nobody in The Philippines has ever seen any of the Austin Powers movies... or even heard of them. They are nowhere to be found.

On Saturday, February 14th, I took Epril out to Town restaurant for our Valentine's Day Dinner. We had planned on taking a "picnic dinner" from Town up to the Malasag Ecolodge and renting a romantic mountaintop bungalow overlooking the city, but it was so cold and dreary, we cancelled that and stayed in town. We went out to Zax. The wait staff there has gotten so inept that we really just are going to stop going. After that, we went to a club called Insomnia, which was okay.

On Sunday, February 15th, I woke up sick. I don't know why this always happens, but whenever I go out and have a bit too much to drink, I always wake up the next day sick. (Yes... I know what you are going to say.) I mean sick. Really sick... an illness, a bug. I made it to Kingston Lodge for lunch (just for a change), and then I went home and climbed into bed, while Epril went off to a gathering of her old high school friends in Jasaan. I basically stayed in bed all day Sunday with fevers, chills, headache, the runs, and really bad joint pains. Quite unhappy.

On Monday, February 16th, I woke up still sick. I slept until noontime, before managing to get out of bed... barely. I needed to get up though: Today was the "big-spending" day. First, Epril and I went to Desmark and bought a big new refrigerator ($500), a new air conditioner ($300), 2 water heaters ($250), a stove/range ($450), a television ($250), and a bottled water hot/cold dispenser ($150). Then, we went and picked up the satellite TV system. Then we met Mike and Marissa for lunch at Ramen Tei Japanese restaurant. Then it was over to Mandaue Foam where I bought ten paintings for about $70 total, some other minor decor, and a leather footstool ($16). Then, we loaded everything into Mike's truck, and he drove us out to Jasaan. Along the way, we stopped at the furniture maker's. I've commissioned him to build a custom couch and coffee table for the living room (which I'm expecting to come in at around $300), a huge custom bed with a hand-carved headboard (which should come in at around $500), and also some closet space for the master bedroom (which should be only $200 or so). After we got everything dropped off at the house in Jasaan, Epril stayed behind while Mike and I rode back to Cagayan De Oro. Along the way, my illness started to come back and by the time I got home, I went straight back into bed.

Define Irony

Actually, the whole "define irony" meme should probably be retired after this one, as it really can't be topped:
The founder of an Islamic television station in upstate New York aimed at countering Muslim stereotypes has confessed to beheading his wife, authorities said.

(Oh, this beheading story could yield fun tidbits for days.) Australia's Daily Telegraph earns extra win for channeling Bugs Bunny by titling their story about the beheading "Hassan Chop" and then gets the gold bolt for captioning the story's accompanying photo, "The couple in happier times, before Hassan removed his wife's head."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Teh Most Awesomest Toy Evah

Step 1: Put really powerful water pump in tiny boat.
Step 2: Attach really long hose to water pump.
Step 3: Attach yourself to end of really long hose.

Where Are You Getting Your Information?

It's common sense really: If you want an opinion about an illness, you would ask a doctor right? Well, for an opinion about the economic recovery plan, who are television journalists asking?

If you guessed "economists", boy oh boy would you be wrong.
A Media Matters study of Sunday talk shows and 12 cable news programs from January 25 through February 8 found that few economists have been given time on television to talk about the economic recovery plan. During 139½ hours of programming in which the economic recovery legislation was discussed, economists made 25 guest appearances out of a total of 460 — only 5 percent.
It's not about education anymore with cable news. It's about entertainment and conflict. Where is the fun in getting economists to come on and explain things to people and give them a better understanding? Instead, get Republicans on to complain about STD programs and "pork" and get people all riled up. Go Liberal Media. Woo.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Daily Report(s): Catching Up

Okay. Let's get caught up a little bit.

On Saturday, January 31st, I worked a bit in the morning. Then Epril and I spent the afternoon enjoying a bit of our tax refund. I bought Epril some perfume and a nightgown. Then we bought a new laptop computer.

On Sunday, February 1st, it was out to Jasaan for the day. I hung out in the jungle with Mike Bird. Epril and I spent the night out there, and Epril was scared of a giant lizard in the bedroom.

On Monday, February 2nd, Epril and I did some shopping for the new house. We found a furniture maker along the highway who makes really nice low-cost furniture. We also found another place selling some fantastic looking bamboo furniture sets for $100 each. That's a 3-person couch, and two 2-person love seats, plus a center table in a set... not bad.

On Tuesday, February 3rd, Epril went back out to Jasaan while I stayed home and worked. Epril, along with her mother and Mike Bird interviewed two painters for the house (rather funnily named Mr. Tata and Mr. Toto). We settled on the cheaper of the two, Mr. Tata, who with a crew of 6 guys, will paint the entire house from top to bottom, inside and out (paint costs not included) for $450.

On Wednesday, February 4th, Epril and I went out to the paint store and met Mr. Tata and Momma Nila. The paint for the entire house cost $300. After that, I dropped off my motorcycle with Mr. Jun so that he could fix my headlights. After I put in the Xenon headlights, nothing worked right... and the Xenon headlights stuck out too far from the headlight casing, so the reflective surfaces of the bezel never did their work, making the Xenon headlights put less light on the road ahead than their halogen predecessors. I'm having the halogen headlights put back, plus a second set of halogen headlights mounted on the front forks. I'm also having the rear drum brake replaced by a disc brake.

On Thursday, February 5th, nothing happened.

On Friday, February 6th, Epril and I went to immigration to renew my tourist visa. We hoped to get me a permanent residency visa this time around, but we only had a copy of our marriage licence, not the original, so they wouldn't give it to us. After that, we did some more shopping, and I brought Epril some sneakers, as she wants to play badminton with her friends. Then it was off to Spooks Friday night expatriate buffet.

On Saturday, February 7th, Epril and I had lunch at Yureka Japanese Restaurant, and then we went out to Zax Restobar in the evening to listen to music and hang out with all of our friends.

On Sunday, February 8th, it was off to Kingston Lodge for the Expatriate Sunday Afternoon Dinner. Then, I showed one of the local expatriates around our house on the hill as he was interested in renting it. Then Epril and I were off to Jasaan again to check on the house. The paint job looks good so far: We are painting the living room yellow with white highlights, and the master bedroom gray with white highlights. The rest of the house is being painted white. The bamboo furniture for the rooftop deck arrived.

On Monday, February 9th, we took a jeepney back to Cagayan De Oro, stopping along the way to buy some more paint. We're making the second bedroom into a TV lounge, and painting it a deep orange color with dark red highlights.

On Tuesday, February 10th, Susan came buy and cooked for us again: Pineapple curry chicken and a nice chicken soup. Other than that, another uneventful day. Oh: It rained the night before and I'm told that the bamboo furniture up on the roof out at the new house has turned white. Apparently the people who made it didn't use outdoor varnish on the furniture. Idiots.

There we go. All caught up. Not very exciting overall, but Epril and I are enjoying the process of getting the house ready to live in. Oh: We're also thinking about getting a dog... a doberman... instead of an alarm system.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Numbers on the Effectiveness of Stimulus Spending

(Sorry I haven't blogged about my personal goings-on in a week. Your e-mails of concern have been duly noted.)

Check out this chart from the Congressional Budget Office. It basically lays out the usual expected results of government stimulus spending. It can be read as follows: For every $1 spent on [blank], it historically yields between $[high] and $[low] of increase in the Gross Domestic Product. (Note where tax cuts come in on the list: At the bottom.)