Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's Not Amusing Anymore

"Chicken Little" is a children's story about a chicken who had a pebble fall on his back, and was convinced the sky was falling. He ran around the barnyard yelling that the sky was falling, and got the other animals in quite a panic... until a wise squirrel uncovered the truth.

Recently though, some people on the far right of the political spectrum in America have actually become voluntary Chicken Littles. They search for a pebble to drop on themselves and then run around scaring everybody on purpose. They have been making a cottage industry out of this in recent days.

The best example to date is the "Global Currency Scare" thought up by the folks at Fox News (and one habitually off-the-wall hysterical congresswoman from Minnesota).

So what was the pebble? Most international finance is denominated in US dollars. China recently suggested that another currency might be better suited for this than the dollar. That was the pebble.

What did chicken little pretend it was? An imminent plan to do away with the American dollar and force you to use a single worldwide currency.

This wasn't a misunderstanding. This was a deliberate tactic to scare Americans, and then try to link that contrived fear to Democrats. (For another good example of this Chicken Little Ploy, check out the comments section in my Bob Basso post below.)

Is this tactic all the Republican party has left? No. They have something else too: In psychiatry, it is called Oppositional Defiant Disorder; in politics, it's called "whatever you do, I'll do the opposite... just because."

For a good example of this, look at last Sunday's (admittedly dumb) "turn off your lights to vote against global warming". The right wing folks urged everybody to go around their houses and turn on every light they owned during this simple-minded show of global conservation.

Is that really all The Right has? Petulance? It's not that they didn't make a point, or didn't have the right to counter-demonstrate; it's just that being low-brow and childish is an idiotic impression to attach to your own political party. (It didn't work with left-wing anti-war protesters either, but at least those guys had the intention of following up their idiocy with discussion, ideas, and debate.)

No discussion, no ideas, no reasoned debate with the Right Wing though: Just fear mongering, distortions and misdirection, and fingers-in-the-ears tantruming. They haven't learned, they haven't changed, they haven't improved. I'm a conservative in a lot of ways... but fuck all if I could ever be a Republican again. These people have nothing to offer anymore.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bob Basso Channels Thomas Paine

The latest internet phenomonon (limited, I suppose, to conservative political junkies) is one Bob Basso, whom I haven't bothered to read about, but I have watched his videos. While I like his schtick and agree with (much of) his point of view, his argument that our government is not representing America is quite weak: Fact is, it is not representing about 48% of America. That's Democracy, not tyranny.

He seems to be quite a fan of hyperbole and sophistry, but the actual issues he discusses are valid. My Ron Paul Republicanism (these days called Libertarianism) mindset agrees that the subjects he covers are important, but the way he makes them out to be Republic-shattering, liberty-killing, freedom-drowning events is a bit overdone — this guy really hates illegal immigrants... Wow.

Anyway, it seems that President O has heard, seen, or been made aware of these videos that Bob Basso has put out and has invited him to The White House. The third-hand quote purportedly made by The White House as the reason for the visit is "to discuss the disturbing nature of these videos." I'm guessing that quote more a canard to gin up publicity for this guy than it is an actual quote: White House comments usually reserve vituperative words like that for Mugabe and Kim Jong Il... not some guy in a powdered wig and lace stock fulminating on YouTube.

Anyway, here is the first of Bob Basso's videos. He does his act well and makes some good (if frantic) points about The Union.


The only source of this invitation to sit down with The President is from Bob Basso himself, reported soley via an often-wrong website. I suppose it should be taken with a 30-pound grain of salt.


I suppose I should bulletize my opinions lest it be thought that I agree whole-heartedly with Mr. Basso, which I do not:
  • I think that English should be learned by anyone who wants to be a long-term resident of America. I don't care one way or the other if English becomes the official language of America more than in a de facto sense.
  • Mr. Basso says he is against "diversity", but I actually think he means he is anti-ethnicity. Big difference. I think that some people do "American hyphenate" themselves too quickly and too easily... but having/keeping/celebrating an ethnic heritage does not threaten America like Mr. Basso believes.
  • I also don't think that the government should be the primary administrator of our healthcare system, but I do think that government should guarantee a minimum level of preventative and maintenance healthcare to all its citizens.
  • As far as I'm concerned, ranting about activist judges who "ignore history" (for history's sake alone) is the same as ranting against scientists who ignore the Bible. Times change, opinions change, values change, laws change.
  • As far as illegal immigrants go, I have no idea how to deal with fixing the problem: They do lots of jobs that need to be done at a salary that keeps certain goods and services affordable in America... yet they are breaking the law. But I'm not going to have a thrombo over it like this guy.
  • The rest of it, I pretty much fully agree with.
  • So the Second American Revolution this guy is asking for? Yawn. Lots of salient points, some even highly important that should be debated more fully in the American community. But somehow expecting that overthrowing one set of elected officials for another would result in the desired changes is silly. As I said above: This is the exact government that 52% of Americans want.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Daily Report: Dress For Dimple

I took 8-year-old little sister Dimple today to the mall in Cagayan De Oro to buy her a new outfit. Dimple was highly excited and was awake at 6 a.m. and all dressed up for the excursion... which didn't begin until 1:30 in the afternoon.

One thing you have to understand about Dimple is that she gets motion sickness just by grabbing the door handle of a car. So, for the jeepney ride to Cagayan, I rode with Dimple up in the front seat, with her sitting right next to the open side of the cabin (with a plastic bag nearby just in case). Success: Dimple enjoyed an emesis-free 40 minutes in the jeepney. (Epril and Ednil rode in the back.)

Once we arrived at Limketkai mall, Epril and Ednil wandered off while I took Dimple first to Jollibee for a hamburger (Dimple ate an entire hamburger, which impressed me), and after that it was off to buy Dimple an adorable little blue dress with a pink sash, matching hair band and pink shoes to go along. (She picked out the dress while I matched the shoes for her... as she was looking at sneakers to go with.) I also let her pick out a toy: A little Disney purse set or something... I can't remember exactly, just that it was 5 or 10 times the price compared to the no-name versions you can find at the local market. After that, I took Dimple for some ice cream, and we met back up with Epril and Ednil and then hopped in a cab to go from Limketkai mall to SM mall to do grocery shopping.

While in the cab, everything in Dimple's stomach wound up on Dimple's stomach. Shockingly, the little girl was unconscious too: It took several not-too-subtle slaps to the face to bring her round. The cab pulled over, and I fetched her out of the back seat and sat her on the trunk of the taxi until her head cleared. Then we put her in her new dress and continued on our way.

I've partially figured it out: Dimple goes into a trance or hypnosis by the movement of the vehicle... hence the not-waking-up thing. Why she then proceeds to throw up while in such a state, however, is a mystery.

Anyway, at SM we bought a case of diet root beer for me, and other bits and pieces for home maintenance that cannot be found in Jasaan (conditioner for Epril's hair topping the list). I also bought some chewable motion sickness tablets for Dimple. Then we took a taxi from SM to Jasaan with our booty. The meter was at 390 pisos when we got home (about $8) and 45 kilometers, but in advance we agreed to pay the taxi driver 600 pisos ($12) for the ride because he had to drive back an additional 30 kilometers before he would arrive in territory where somebody might use his services again.

I curled up in bed with my book: A collection of Sunday Times columns by Jeremy Clarkson.

Friday, March 27, 2009

New Tesla Sedan Coming To Market Soon-ish

Electric vehicles are just getting better, cooler, more sensible and economical, and hard to pass up.

With your new $50,000 Tesla Model S Sedan, you'll be able to go 2 hours down the highway and 2 hours back with lots of charge to spare for a total cost of $5, or 2.5 cents per mile, with an equivalent gasoline mileage (at $2.25 per gallon) of 90 miles per gallon.

But, the coolest thing about electric vehicles is the silence. I know on my electric scooter, it is the best feature. I can imagine how fantastic it would be going down the highway in a car that is making no more noise than it does when it is shut off, sitting in your garage.

Additionally, Tesla has designed the batteries to be swappable, so with infrastructure changes at gas stations eventually it will take less time to "recharge" than it will to "fill up."

Currently though, you can tack on 100 miles to the car's range with 45 minutes of charging. Tesla provides its cars with a 100-mile backup battery as well. That means you could travel 500 miles... 7 hours... to an overnight destination, with a 45-minute stop for lunch.

Assuming that your average new gasoline car gets 30 miles to the gallon, and is driven 12,000 miles per year, and gas costs $2.25 per gallon, the Tesla will save $600 per year over purchasing any other new car... and be cooler and cleaner than any other car on the road.

The only 2 problems I can see right now with owning an electrical car have to do with the rare times when you go on that above-mentioned 500-mile trip: That when you get to your hotel (1) you can't drive again for another 45 minutes or (2) you can't find a parking place that is close to an electrical plug. Other than that rare instance, what's the downside?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Philippines News Roundup

Here are the stories that have been making headlines in The Philippines this month:

Convicted rapist Daniel Smith had his
accuser recant, but only after US-PH
relations were strained.
A Filipina woman accused a U.S. Marine of raping her, and got him convicted to a 40-year prison sentence. This rape victim became a cause célèbre for all those "America Out Now" groups, and this strained Philippines-America relations more than a little as anti-American protests abounded. Now? The rape victim says it was consensual. Never mind.

Legacy owner Celso de los Angeles Jr.
is doing his best to stay out of jail.
Good luck with that.
The Legacy Bank was, for many years, a great way to double your money: You gave them x pisos, and they gave you postdated checks for 2x pisos. Legacy made their money from usurious microloans to poor people. Of course, the bottom was bound to fall out eventually. It did, when the owners started giving not-so-micro loans to themselves.

Overnight, Filipino Arnel Pineda went
from the obscure corners of YouTube
to the lead singer of Journey.
In the ultimate "Rockstar", rags-to-riches, hometown hero homecoming story, Filipino Arlen Pineda played his first concert in The Philippines as the new lead singer of Journey. Close your eyes... maybe keep them open a bit even... and you'd swear you're in the presence of Steve Perry himself. (Pinoy singers seem to be all the rage these days.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Daily Report:Not All Small Affairs Are Created Equal

I readjusted my understanding of the sense of community in The Philippines that I've been commenting on here lately. I think that a Filipino's desire to be "out and about" — mingling, chatting, participating, enjoying — is much more a self-centered operation than it is a desire to be a positive factor in the village. They ask not what they can do for their community.

Queenie was 9 years old when she died from leukemia yesterday. Her coffin was sitting in her parents' living room in a neighborhood of densely packed little houses on the outskirts of Jasaan. She had a simple bier surrounded by some relatives, photos, a paschal candle, and a few stuffed animals. Twenty people came to her funeral service.

It clears things up a bit, doesn't it? Five hundred people will show up for some nearly-pointless childrens' event, but only twenty will show up for a child's funeral. I suppose that these people have enough problems and enough grief in their own lives already. Filipinos probably learned early on that going over to their neighbor's to share in the grief doesn't accomplish much except to add to their own misery, and spread it like an infection. Happiness is what these people ask of their community; succor and solace are commodities this place seems to have in terribly small quantities.


I love custom cars, hot rods, monster trucks. I've never seen an automotive fashion trend that I didn't find attractive.

Until now.

People are taking impossibly large rims (30 inches!) with low profile tires, and are sticking them on jacked up suspensions under 1970–1980 sedans. Monte Carlos painted bright colors seem particularly popular. (See Mom and Dad? I was just 20 years too early.)

Anyway, the moniker for these monstrosities is "Donks" and you can see more of them (should you want to) here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Daily Report: Guests

Life is ongoing here in the jungle. We still climb out of bed in the morning to the cock crowing, and we still climb into bed at night to those little bastards next door barking.

I've filled up the little swimming pool on the roof, and now I've got constantly-frolicking naked natives to keep me company while I work. Downstairs is a constant cycle of cook-eat, cook-eat, wear-wash, wear-wash, play-eject, play-eject.

I was going to have the furniture maker build a few more small tables for the TV room, and a long bench for the front porch... probably at a cost of $30 or so. Kirko the houseboy came to me and told me he could build the tables and bench himself if I wanted. Having seen that the average Filipino guy can bung together a Queen Anne set out of bamboo and chicken bones in the space of an afternoon, I figured "sure." As Kirko and I went to the lumber mill to pick up the wood, he explained how his family used to own a lumber mill of their own. He then proceeded to name all the different types of woods on display in the mill, and all the types of trees within view. My confidence level rose quite a bit. (Cost for it all: $12.)

As you can see, the first table is finished.

Cousin-in-law Mike Bird is back in town from a brief sojourn to North Dakota, where he spent a month fitting out passenger planes to go to Saudi Arabia. His wife, Emelyn, is 14 months pregnant and Mike is back for the anticipated birth. Based on the lump-to-lady size ratio, it is going to be a tight squeeze. Mike is a bit of a giraffe, so it's not surprising his kid would match. Mike has spent his anticipatory days planting a garden of Chinese lettuces, kale, and Filipino pimentos. He also has a flock of chickens he tends to... and talks to them like they were puppies or something. I thought you were just supposed to make clucking sounds around chickens as you scattered feed. But then Mike desperately wants eggs... I suppose some pleading and coaching wouldn't hurt.

My motorcycle still isn't back from the shop yet after 5 weeks. Hell, after all this time I doubt it will even recognize me when it sees me. I've received daily updates to the we-fix-it-here-and-it-breaks-there drama that Mechanic Jun is suffering through. It seems like the end may be in sight... for the third or fourth time. With all the problems and missteps in this recent round of repairs, there's no way I'm even going to look at that bike without a guarantee of parts and workmanship (FWIW). Well, as I've said before, if it wasn't a turd of a bike to begin with, I wouldn't have dumped it in the shop, and broken the "do not break seal" in order to impose my supernal vision upon it. Common knowledge: Some turds don't take well to polishing.

The plants in my rooftop garden started to wilt. Overwatering apparently... vegetative version of the bloat. Not my fault though: It is Susan who waters them. She got some corrective advice from the older ladies with the greener thumbs, and it looks like things are on the mend now. Two little birds, brown with black heads (chestnut munia, after a bit of searching), are making a nest in one of the ferns. I see them coming in for a landing with bits of materiel in their beaks. Central booking sent a new gecko to my office after I accidentally squashed his predecessor. The new guy is twice the size of the old one, which is a good sign, because I think he is too big to fit in the track underneath the window, with its gecko-flattening apparatus. Hopefully he gets along with the munia. All I need now is an anteater to show up, and I'll have the proper level of coverage.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Daily Report: Small Affairs Writ Large

I think one of the nicest things about living out here in the jungle is that, without the latest headlining band playing at the colosseum, without the big sale at Macys, without the new restaurant opening or university speaker speaking or championship game kicking off... the small things in life tend to get more of the spotlight.

In the small town in upstate New York where I grew up, one the biggest events of the year was the Dairy Festival, with its parade of marching bands and majorettes, tractors and floats, beauty queens and politicians waving from the back of my father's yellow Cutlass, while we kids waved back from the grand front porch of the old Victorian house that had been converted to the local dentist's office.

Jasaan, if anything, finds much more divertisement in the local goings on. Jasaan crushes little upstate Bath in the number and variety of festivals, fairs, parades, and other civic events, but that doesn't stop them from piling on even more come-one-come-all excitement to daily life here.

So, it was with a bit of tongue-in-cheek anticipation that this evening Epril and I paid a visit to the local kindergarten graduation... the day's big event. We spent about 10 minutes there politely clapping as each child was lauded with their accomplishments over the loudspeaker: "Best writing. Best religion. Best teamwork. Best English." I challenge you to find a place in America where a kindergarten graduation can draw a crowd of 500 people.

Of course, the reason for that is that people in America have better things to do... like watch TV or work late or go shopping at Macys. But then, that is kind of the point: It is in this little town of no consequence or import where one can forget about Macys or The Giants and instead spend some time appreciating the spectacle of some wide-eyed little kids in their cute outfits having their special day.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Summary Of Filipino History: A Book Report

I just finished my book on Filipino history. Unfortunately it was written in 1974, so the book ends with coverage of the fantastically successful and benevolent regime of Ferdinand Marcos and his beautiful and educated wife, Imelda, and the Filipino peoples' love for them. How did that work out, anyway?

The Philippines has very little in the way of history, primarily because governing forces in this country stopped history from happening whenever it had the chance. Essentially, you can know pretty much 95% of Filipino history by just studying the ten years 1895 to 1905, and World War 2. I'll summarize it:

Jose Rizal. His writings
and martyrdom were the
foundation of Filipino

Andres Bonifacio. He
started the revolution
for Filipino independence
from Spain.

Emilio Aguinaldo. He
finished the revolution
for independence and
was The Philippines
first president.

Manuel Quezon. Presi-
dent of The Philippines
during World War 2, and
first "official" Presi-
dent of The Philippines.

Manuel Roxas. President
of The Philippines at the
end of World War 2, and
first President of a free
and independent

Ferdinand Marcos. Pres-
ident of The Philippines
from 1965 to 1986.
Declared martial law and
ruled by dictat until
removed from power by
the election of the wife
of his murdered rival,
Corazon Aquino.
The Philippines was a group of individual village/islands/nations until the Spanish came in the late 1500s. The Spanish used the diversity and differences between the villages/islands/nations to conquer the islands, getting one group of Filipinos to fight and subjugate the next. This went on for the next 300 years whenever discontent arose: Spanish-led Filipinos would put down unrest on islands they were not native to. Several potential revolutionaries rose during Spanish occupation, increasing in number and influence towards the end of the 1800's, but all were caught and killed. Most notable among these martyrs was a man named Rizal, one of the most brilliant Filipinos who ever lived. Read his thanatopsis, "Mi Ultimo Adios", written while waiting for his execution, here. It is one of the greatest pieces of revolutionary writing ever. (I can't read it without misting up.)

Eventually in 1897, one rebel, a fellow named Aguinaldo, was enough of a pain that even though his revolution (actually started by a man named Bonifacio) was beaten back, the Spanish bought him off and exiled him to Hong Kong.

Shortly after this, the Spanish-American war broke out. The American general sent to battle for The Philippines contacted Aguinaldo and told him that now was the time for the Filipinos to fight for independence. Aguinaldo came back and did all the fighting (and was declared the first President of The Philippines), but then at the last minute the Americans came in, staged a (literally) fake battle with the Spanish, who then surrendered The Philippines to the Americans.

Aguinaldo and his friends thought The Philippines was free, but the American government had other ideas, and (although a contentious decision in America) claimed The Philippines as a territory. The Filipinos fought the Americans from 1900 to 1901 over this, but it was a rather one-sided war and eventually the Filipinos gave in.

The Americans actually were pretty nice about running The Philippines (according to the book, which was really heavy on the "we love America" stuff), setting up the school system, improving infrastructure, and granting free trade with America. There was also a continual move by America towards Filipino independence from America. They were just about there when World War 2 started. A guy named Quezon was the president of the Commonwealth of The Philippines when Japan invaded just before independence, and he fled to America and governed from there, eventually dying in upstate New York before The Philippines was liberated.

The Japanese came in and tried to pretend they had liberated The Philippines, but nobody believed them, and native insurgencies continued unabated until the Americans returned. (There was an anti-Japanese rebel insurgency that continued for 20 years after the Japanese left that was eventually defeated.)

After the war, America helped rebuild much of the damaged infrastructure in The Philippines, and then President Truman gave it independence on July 4, 1946. Then, a succession of Filipino Presidents, starting with a fellow named Roxas, have added their little bit of progress to agrarian or economic or governmental reform of The Philippines to varying degrees of success.

But it wasn't until the brilliant Ferdinand Marcos came along and drove out all of the corruption from government, cracked down on the criminals, increased support for the arts and literature, and improved the lives of every Filipino (all with the help of his beautiful and brilliant wife), so that the modern shining success of The Philippines we know today could emerge.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Daily Report: Storm Clouds

Another good day of work. I may never get back to my pre-upheaval income at this job (the realization of that fact is why I moved from my $750 per month house to my $200 per month house) but I should be able to get back to... ohhh... about where I started 6 years ago. My original goal upon starting medical transcription was to do 1,350 lines per day, 7 days per week... or 20,000 lines per pay period. (Lately, I have been in the 8,000 to 9,000 line range per pay period, down from the 30,000 lines I used to do... it was that bad.) Like I said before, at least I'm more optimistic about my job security than the average American right now.

We had rain yesterday for the first time since moving in, arriving right at sunset. From the jungle perch, I got to see the setting sun hit upwards upon the rain clouds to create that cool gray-orange combination.

Mechanic Jun says my motorcycle now won't start, and he needs to bring the Motorstar mechanic (Jun's just a "Motorstar customizer" or something) to fix it. I'm guessing that the bike is now well-and-truly fucked up. I'm not surprised; I was even expecting it. The bike was a p.o.s. to begin with, otherwise I wouldn't have sent it off to be customized and "upgraded" with only 2,000 kilometers on it.

I don't blame Jun. He had never worked on this particular model of Motorstar before — although he knows other Motorstar motorcycles inside and out. Unfortunately for Jun, he is only realizing now that he is like the local Toyota hot-rodder agreeing to mess around with a Prius or something. Fortunately for me, I paid in advance on terms that were very agreeable to Jun... agreeable at first blush, when my motorcycle was sitting in his garage, having just arrived, not yet screwed up.

Yes... I'm behind the times again, but here goes: I saw the Skype video phone yesterday for the first time, as Epril chatted on her laptop with Honey Maeh in Viet Nam. Quite good overall: I'd say about 6 to 10 frames per second at 400 x 300 pixel resolution, with what seemed like a quarter-second lag. Not bad for a completely-free international video phone call. I remember my first extended stay overseas in 1986, when I was 17, in Brazil. What a difference the internet has made to living overseas. I'm still astounded sometimes.

I knew this would be the case, but I didn't think it would bother me: I've had lechon manok (rotisserie chicken) for about half of my meals since moving out to the jungle. It's starting to bother me. I'm going to have to start sending Susan out to the local restaurants to get some take out food more often, damn the fact that it is $3 per meal instead of $1 per meal. It's either that, or I'm going to have to get used to eating the pungent little 8-inch fishes that are the primary diet of folks out here.

Anyway, I played some Playstation 3 (Grand Turismo Prologue) for an hour, then climbed into bed and read my book on Filipino history. (I'm almost done with that... I have to get something else to read this weekend.) And finally going to sleep at my usual early time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Daily Report: Upswing, Bits and Pieces

I think my work might be finally turning the corner after six months of rubbish. I simply had to deal with so many changes in my job (all of them negative), that they compounded together to make the sum worse than the parts. Now, I'm getting used to the changes and, more importantly, their effects on my work day. It took a while.

I put the WiFi router down in the TV room and now we have wireless internet throughout the house.

I spilled a drop (one drop!) of apple juice in my keyboard last week and thought for sure that my world would be covered with ants, but none showed up... until today. I came back from lunch and they had found gold. Unfortunately, the only product available to stop ants in The Philippines are these sticks of chalk you buy: You draw a line and the ants won't cross it. The ants will go around it... but that's your problem. How does one draw a chalk line around a keyboard? Fortunately, I had a good idea: I crushed up a bit of the chalk and poured it into my keyboard and then blew it around inside there a bit. Worked like a charm.

Epril had her first official monthly Expatriates' Ladies Charity Meeting today. The first meeting was focused on getting members passports: They had the director from the Department of Foreign Affairs come in and help them fill out passport applications, and talk about visa issues and things like that. If Epril wants to change to her married name in her passport, we're going to have to fly to Cebu for a class of some sort. I'm not sure what that is about. It better not be that I have to miss a couple of days of work for some 20-minute little talk that could have been done over the phone or something.

The electric motorcycle I bought is a real hit here in Jasaan. I think that lots of people are going "hmmm" about the thought of never buying gasoline again. I don't think it's a good primary vehicle for most people because of the 30-mile range (15 miles round trip), but I suppose if you don't mind taking a jeepney into CDO, it could work.

I'm supposed to get my Motorstar motorcycle back from the mechanic today. It's been just about a month. Apparently mechanic Jun is going to have recurring nightmares about the day he agreed to put a rear disc brake on my bike for $120.

The water is still messed up in the house. I would say it's getting more messed up as we go on. It really sucks something awful. The more I get settled into the house, the more I realize what shit is missing, broken, or needs to be taken care of. It's not a big list, and it doesn't make life impossible... but they are minor annoyances that are going to need fixing sooner rather than later.

Monday, March 9, 2009

If The Shoe Fits...

Don't accuse the other guy of wearing it.

John Cole laughs about the fact that — yet again — people working for John McCain have called Barack Obama "A Manchurian Candidate" in the way he is assaulting the economy.

Of course, if you think about the book "The Manchurian Candidate" for a minute...
American military officer captured and held as a prisoner in an Asian land for years, returned to the United States and hailed as a hero, and later on in life he starts to act erratically. I know the first person I think of from the last election is President Obama. How about you?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Daily Report #1803

A highly uneventful weekend. I stayed at home and worked, watched TV, and enjoyed having a house full of family. Epril made it into Cagayan on Sunday for some shopping. (She brought me back a chili dog from Jollibee... nice.)

This SmartBro cellular system internet really is good. As best I can tell, it hasn't gone done once yet, not even for a second or two. Every time I run the speed test on it, regardless of time of day, it is always right between 360 Kbps and 380 Kbps. It's not fast, but for $20 per month in a country like The Philippines, rock-solid, steady speed internet is otherwise impossible to find.

The main problem is that the signal from the WiFi router that I have does not reach to the first floor of the house from my jungle perch. I'm thinking about moving it out of my office and down to the TV room below. I used to like to keep all the internet equipment near my desk so that if my internet went skewiff, I could look at the little green lights and be enlightened. Now that the internet actually works well, maybe I'll move the router. I have enough network cable to do it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Best Prank Ever

This was a prank by one of the guys at CollegeHumor.com against one of his coworkers there. It was in response to a prank played on him 18 months ago by the guy he is playing the prank on. I didn't care for the first prank, because the victim lost his girlfriend over it (and probably traumatized the girlfriend as well), while this one is 100%, collateral-damage-free, red-faced, soul-crushing letdown: where you take someone from the most thrilling moment in their life to the stark realization that they've just been totally suckered in front of 18,000 people.

My Twin Brother

With all apologies to Andrew and the unnamed person who wrote this on his website, I am posting this in full on Jungle Jil.

Just change "major daily newspaper" to "Merrill Lynch" and change "pre-millennial" to "post-September 11" (oh, and change "girlfriend became pregnant" to "we decided to get a dog"), but other than that, me is pretty much he:
At the risk of sounding somewhat obnoxious, I am finding this economic crisis rather soothing.

Back in 1999, I was earning a decent salary (about 60k a year) and had good career prospects at a major daily newspaper. Then, pre-millennial angst crept in: Is this all there is to life? So, I cashed in my savings and dropped out. I moved to Paris, I worked with an art project, I wrote a couple of books, I spent time living in Beijing and on the Greek Islands.

My philosophy was that the one thing a person can’t afford in life is regret and this mantra carried me off on adventures I couldn’t have even imagined back when I was slogging away at the newspaper. The doubts and panic started last year. I am worth nothing: no assets and a bank balance that rises into four digits on only the rarest of occasions. I find myself approaching 40, a less romantic age to live hand-to-mouth. And then my girlfriend became pregnant. All of a sudden, I was sneaking longing glances at those who had stayed in the game and had pensions, homes, and the wherewithal to give their children a decent start in life. I became very very nervous.

Now, thanks to the plummeting economy, I realize that I would probably be just as anxious if I had never gone off on my odyssey. If I had stayed at the newspaper, I might be jobless with a rotted-out pension and a house that wasn’t worth its mortgage. Though I am still worried about providing for my child in this dismal economy, I am more confident than ever that I made the right decision when I abandoned my safe career to taste the broader glories of life. Because, as is now so overwhelmingly clear, nothing is ever truly safe.

If this recession serves as anything, hopefully it will be a reminder that you should never compromise your ambitions in favor of the chimera of financial security. If you are inevitably going to end up in the poorhouse, you might as well get there by chasing the wildest of your dreams.

The fact is, I'm totally prepared to — expecting to — spend my twilight years sitting on the porch of a bamboo hut in a sleepy little Filipino village watching the sun set over the ocean with my wife, family, and fantastic memories of a life spent in much better places than some cramped Manhattan office striving for monetary success and security that is hardly guaranteed. If I wind up financially better off than my expectations, that of course is fantastic; but I've concluded that I have everything I need to enjoy my dotage now: Love, friends, family, and the memories of a life that has been more interesting and well-lived than most other people ever hope for.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Daily Report: Water Woes

Nothing particularly exciting happened today... just work.

It seems like pretty much every water-related thing in this house is screwed up. We have water, yes, but getting it to pour out of and drain out of the right places at the right time at the right rate is another story entirely.

I had Kirko watch and monitor the filling of the 300-liter cistern on the roof last night, and the pump filled it up without a problem in just under an hour. This morning, I had him check it again and it was only half full. While the cistern was full, I turned on the water to the big jacuzzi tub directly underneath it, and the water only trickled out. The list goes on and on. Looks like I'll be having a discussion with my landlord about the plumbing.

We had bar-be-que chicken for lunch and "Polynesian Chicken" (a nice sauce, like a mild adobo) for dinner.

I got to bed late tonight. It was 10:00 and I was getting ready to turn off the TV when I noticed that Discovery Travel & Living had an episode of "Globe Trekker" coming on... one of my favorites. I said to myself, "The only way I'll stay up to watch it is if Ian (one of the five hosts) is on, and he's traveling to somewhere in Southeast Asia." Oddly enough, it actually was Ian and he was traveling to Cambodia. So I stayed up until 11:00 tonight drinking Cagayan Cocktails.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Today's internet phenomenon:

This fellow from Isreal took a big ass pile of YouTube videos posted by soloing musicians and looped and cut them to create his own music. (I can't find out whether he added any of his own playing to the mix or not... but I don't think so.)

Here's another one.

Daily Report: Final Touches

Today was a fine day of work. It sucks having a job where one day you make $40 per hour, the next day you make $10 per hour... with absolutely no difference in the amount of effort or zeal you put into your work. I remember doing a sales job after I graduated from college, and it was the same soul-sucking experience where effort had absolutely no correlation to reward.

The furniture arrived today... all of it. So hence, you get the photos you've been waiting for.

First off is the living room. The couch is custom made by the local furniture maker. As you can see, the arm rests are tables, and there is a table built over the cushion as well. If you look closely, you'll see that the surround sound speakers are built into the couch as well. The grey paint is a little bit more blue than I wanted. Most importantly though, is that the 6-feet by 6-feet measurement I made turned out to be too small. I'm going to have some benches built to stick on the ends of the couch to provide more seating. I also still need to buy a dining room table for this room.
Next is the kitchen, a work in progress. We're going to have the furniture guy build a back wall for the stove that turns into a bit of a counter. That's Kirko the houseboy hard at work fixing the clogged drain. The plumbing needs so much work.

Here is the bedroom. The bed is another custom piece, with the headboard all hand carved. The stain is a little too dark. I wanted more of a white maple color. Now I have to find something to hang over the bed to match it. I also have to buy Epril a table for her boudoir, and then all of the things on the little widow seat will be stored away.
Here are the wardrobes we had made in Epril's boudoir. The gray paint really picks up the blue of the curtains. I made a dumb mistake and forgot to buy an air conditioner with a remote control... Epril can't reach the switch up there, and I can only reach it by opening the door and standing on the ledge there. Also those boxes in front of the air conditioner are "functional". The cold air for some reason seems to blow primarily off to the left of the picture, which isn't where we want it blowing. The boxes direct the air.

Below is the TV room. There is still a coffee table coming and a TV stand. (The TV is off to the left.) The wall hanging and piece covering the window seat are silk tapestries I bought in a mountain village in Laos.

The view from my office this evening.
AJ playing. Epril, Mom, Ednil, and
Doreen enjoying the wireless internet.
That's Inday in her school uniform.
The family was hanging out on the terrace this evening. Little AJ was brought round by his mother too. It was nice to sit here and work and listen to everybody enjoying the house.

For dinner, we had spaghetti, and I watched some History Channel. No dogs barking tonight, which is a great sign of the accommodating nature of my neighbors.

So anyway, here's a list of all the things I plan to get for the house before I consider it fully furnished: A dining room table with chairs; a knickknack table, a bar, and a café table with chairs for the sitting room off the living room (not photographed yet... it's still filled with boxes); a bench for the front porch; a makeup table and chair for Epril in the boudoir area of the master bedroom; a bit of carpet for the stairs and upstairs hallway; a wicker table and chairs and a bamboo bench for the terrace (plus more plants); and, some additional paintings and wall hangings. I also need some blinds for my office.

The nice thing is that all of these things are amazingly inexpensive here in The Philippines. The bed, the couch, and the wardrobes you see in these photographs combined cost about $800. The coffee table and TV table for the TV room that are on their way should cost about $30 together. All in all, when we're finished, Epril and I will have spent about $4,000 for all of the appliances, furniture, and decor for our home this year (plus about $8,000 last year... with the 60-inch TV). Until we buy a house of our own, that will be just about it for our domecilliary expenses.

Remember The Nuclear Option? How Bout Now?

Ah yes. Back in the days when Republicans dominated the Congress and White House, there was a little kerfuffle about how every judicial nominee from President Bush deserves an "up or down vote", and if the Democrats threatened to filibuster any of President Bush's judicial nominations, the Senate Republicans would unleash the "nuclear option" (using a majority vote to change Senate rules to eliminate the two-thirds filibuster once and for all).

Remember that? Republican Senators don't. All 41 of them signed a pledge to filibuster any and all Obama judicial nominees if President Obama doesn't give them the power to veto any judges he appoints to their states, something that President Bush and Senate Republicans expressly laughed about when Senate Democrats suggested it way back when. "Elections have consequences," the Republicans said then. Remember that?
"The Senate has an important role in the confirmation process, and in extreme cases when the President has refused to consult with the Senate, the minority has tools to obstruct nominees who are obviously unfit for the bench. Obama looks to be clearing that standard easily," said Kolbert. "But it was only a few years ago that the GOP was willing to blow up the Senate in order to eliminate the filibuster entirely. They told anyone who would listen that every judicial nominee deserved an up-or-down vote without exception. Apparently, the Senate Republicans have the collective memory of a goldfish."
I sincerely wish that Senate Democats would threaten to get rid of the filibuster once and for all... and make goddamned sure they call it "the nuclear option" when they do. (Here's what I said 3½ years ago.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Daily Report: Jungle Enigmas

Today was simply an awful day of work. I was thrown into an unfamiliar hospital's work to transcribe, and everybody there sounded like they had just gotten off the boat from Bangalore. I worked for 4 hours and transcribed 500 lines... about one-third speed.

The rooftop terrace is coming along.
We still need some bushes to fill out
the jungle feel, a wicker table and
chairs (next month, maybe), and we're
going to pile up some gravel and coral
to make flower beds around the plants.
Epril, Momma Nila, and Kirko went into Jasaan today for chores. Nila's mother in Leyte (the next island north from, on the east side of, Mindanao) is ill so we sent her some money. Epril then bought a bunch of plants for the rooftop terrace (3 small banana-like trees, 2 hanging ferns, 2 fern trees, and an ornamental arrangement for the table... $25). I still have a hard time grasping the concept of paying for plants. I'm surrounded by hills covered with miles upon miles of plants. Why pay when one has a shovel? Oh well. It's a mystery to me. Epril also stopped by the electronic store and looked at more ways for me to communicate from my jungle perch up here on the third floor down to the kitchen, and found everything to be in the $50 range (per unit). Since we are running low on money, we decided to put that purchase on hold. It only costs me 75 centavos (1.5 cents) to send a text message downstairs from my mobile phone. We can send 6,000 text messages for $100 (two units), so they can wait.

The couch should arrive tomorrow. Still no word on the due date of the bed and cabinets, though I believe they are just about finished.

I had Filipino pizza from a local restaurant for lunch today. Filipino pizza means start with pizza dough, and then put whatever is cheap on top. Today's pizza had mushrooms, slices of hotdog, pineapples, raisins, and two types of processed cheese. No sauce that I could taste. I can't say why, but it actually was good. It tastes like something you would make while stoned at 3 in the morning.

My cough is still going on; not as bad as it was years ago when it actually worried me though. I'm not sure if it is just a remnant from the ride on the polluted highway in the moving van at rush hour 6 days ago, or if there is more smoke from cooking fires and burning leaves in the air here in Jasaan. I had a bad cough before that lasted for some time after a rush-hour ride on that highway... so it's not the first time.

I played some video games tonight, had two pieces of fried chicken (Epril's family had fish — they really love their fish), and watched the Filipino news. The only two news subjects that matter to Filipinos were covered extensively tonight: Crime in Manila and any and all information regarding the goings-on of Manny Pacquiao.

Our neighbors have three yap-yap dogs who barked for 45 minutes straight tonight. When bedtime came around, I had Susan walk next door to tell the neighbors to fix the problem. They did. I don't mind dogs barking (or cocks crowing, kids screaming, drills buzzing, hammers banging, motorcycles droning, or any of the other sounds I can hear regularly outside my door). I just don't want to hear one single sound for 45-minutes straight when it's time to go to sleep.

Republicans: The Diet Starts Tomorrow

That's my favorite saying, you know: "The diet starts tomorrow." Senate Republicans seem to be thinking along the same lines, as they actually managed to out-pig the Democrats this year in stuffing their faces at the earmark trough, all the while shouting about the government "porkulus" bill. They should learn not to talk with their mouths full.

Hypocrites: Republicans got kicked out of the majority for their liberal-style, pork-filled, deficit-bursting budgets. Then without missing a beat, they turn around and shout about how much they hate liberal-style, pork-filled, deficit-bursting budgets, without any sense of irony. At the same time they are still getting as much as they can from the liberal-style, pork-filled, deficit-bursting budgets.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Daily Report: Cats and Fish Bowls

This new neighborhood does have a propensity to get me out of bed in the morning. The 7:00 hour is definitely one of the noisiest, with everybody (and the chickens and the dogs and the birds) getting their day started.

Mom and Dad Gontinas, plus Kirko and Susan have been spending 10 hours per day just puttering around the house cleaning and arranging. The place is really starting to look nice. Kirko is a godsend because he is the only person besides myself who can operate the scooter, so he can drive everybody around town on chores. He's of great character as well: He dropped out of college so that his family could focus their efforts on his older brother's college education. Every piso I'm giving him, he is giving to his brother as well.

I made another panorama photo, this time standing at the intersection in front of my house. The time was approximately 10 a.m. (It's a large photo at 5 megabytes and 1000 by 5000 pixels, so that you can see the details when you click on it. Cancel that: Blogger seems to have shrunk it without my asking.) The first street farthest to the left is pointing south, then west, north, east, and then the last street is the same as the first... a complete circle.

Epril and I bought our wedding rings in Thailand, and they are solid 24-carat gold. Over the past 5 months, my ring has — through a combination, I assume, of body heat and pressure — bent to a triangular shape. It's starting to bug me. I'll have to take it to a jeweler and have it straightened out. Hopefully they can work with solid gold.

I definitely like the evening hour most in the new house... here in my new office. When the sun sets to my left, all the trees in front of me and to the right of me really pop in color, and the hundreds of shades of green all become really vibrant. It is also the time that the neighborhood seems to slow down a little bit, and people just stop to talk or sit, waiting for dinner. It's tranquil and vivid at the same time.

I've lived in seven houses in Asia prior to this one, from a $2,000 per month mini-mansion (for a year in 2005) to a $200 per month studio apartment (for 2 months in 2003). One thing about all of them is that they were private and secluded... either by tall walls, lots of hedges, an untrafficked location, or height. This house is the exact opposite. My apartment building in New York City saw less daily foot traffic than this house... and those New York passersby weren't nearly as intimate in proximity or aura. It's almost as if you and everyone else are living on a narrow shopping promenade, occupying glass-walled storefronts. I'm sure many... maybe even most... Americans would find that off-putting, but I kind of like it: It's the same feeling you have when your house is filled with family.

At night, the local clowder (word of the day, kids) of cats has been making a stealthy procession back and forth through our yard, past the sliding glass doors where I watch television. Tonight's movie was, fittingly, "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" on Turner Classic Movies, which I had never seen before. I had lechon manok (bar-be-que chicken) for dinner, while the rest of the family also ate fish as well. Our weekly food expense after the move, as expected, has remained just about the same; however instead of spending $10 or $15 on restaurants two or three times per week for Epril and myself, we are spending $6 or $8 per day on feeding 10 people. I don't mind that in the slightest.

A Bit Of Good News For Me

According to this New York Times article, "only 17% of the nation's physicians are using computerized patient records." Obama's economic stimulus package includes $19 billion to "accelerate the use of computerized medical records in doctors' offices."

In other words, it would be reasonable to expect my company's income, client list, and work load to increase substantially in the next 5 years.

Some of that work may go to India or The Philippines, but currently there is a shortage of qualified transcriptionists to meet current demand in those countries... and they are handling only 10% of the current electronic medical record market. That's 10% of the 17%, or 1¾% of the total potetential (but very likely) electronic medical record market. The future electronic medical record market will require literally 50 times the number of qualified transcriptionists as India and The Philippines have already provided... are currently straining to provide... and unless there are half a million otherwise-unemployed people floating around India and The Philippines with college-level english skills, Americans are likely to be filling those new positions.

It may not be as lucrative as it once was (though that might change as demand for qualified candidates skyrockets), but medical transcription might be a safe bet for the near-and-mid term after all... and my company is really the industry leader in the very technology that this $19 billion is going to be spent on.

(If you're interested in becoming a medical transcriptionist, I recommend you go to MT Daily. You can also look at the ROS School, the correspondence course I used 7 years ago. It cost (then) about $2,000 and took about 4 months to complete, with guaranteed job placement upon finishing.)

Just a thought too: England, Canada, Australia, as well as all of the non-English speaking first world countries on the planet will be making this switch as well... even if it is without government funding. It certainly seems to be a "nowhere but up" industry at this point in time. (Knock on wood.)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Don't Click Unless You Have Lots Of Spare Time

The 99 things you should have already experienced on the internet. (Unless you're a loser or old or something.)

Daily Report: Damage To The Local Population

The street in front of my
house. The second floor bal-
cony over my garage can be
seen on the left. The banners
over the street are from the
most recent fiesta.

Looking further up the street
towards the sea. The light
blue gate is the entrance to
Jasaan's middle school.

Looking towards the south-
east. The little roadside shop
with the umbrella sells bar-
be-que every evening.

Looking northeast at the little
intersection in front of my
house. One of Epril's old
school teachers lives in the
blue-roofed house across the
street from us.

The view looking directly south.
The trees in the background are
the town park, one block away.
I started off my morning by opening all the windows in my office. Apparently a gecko was hiding out relaxing on the track below the window, and the wheels guiding the window ran over him and then dragged him along to a hideous and agonizing death. In Asia, those little lizards are your best friend. Not only are they cute and lively, but they never attack and try to kill you (like I know — although have yet to see evidence — that those terrifying cockroaches do; I run screaming from them), and the little brown-green fellows happily eat all of the insects that would otherwise be constantly pestering you... except for the cockroaches, sadly. Anyway, having killed my principle insect defense, my office will now most likely be overrun.

No word on the furniture yet.

Epril went into Cagayan De Oro today to meet up with her Expatriates' Ladies Charity, get some cash out of the ATM (one drawback of Jungle life: no ATM within 15 miles), and do some shopping. We wanted to by some walkie-talkie style communication for the house since in this house I'm out of bellowing range when I run out of diet root beer up in the office. Epril found an internal telephone system that cost 1,400 pisos ($30) per unit... but I wanted something we can carry around with us. Then she found walkie talkies for 11,000 pisos ($225) per set, but that seemed like overkill: I just need to talk to her downstairs, not across town. So that purchase is on hold for the time being.

Work was okay today, but I was interrupting myself every 45 minutes or so to go downstairs and see how Kirko (that's Auntie Puring's son, my handyman... and fantastic in his perfect understanding of what I want, perfect communication of what he needs, and perfect execution of what needs to be done) was doing hanging curtains in the master bedroom and paintings in the hallway. He also strung up the silk tapestry I purchased on a trip to Laos, threading it to a long thin piece of bamboo and then hanging it on the wall in the TV room. The TV room is coming along surprisingly well. I had the walls painted a burnt orange with brick red trim and I cringed the first time I saw the finished result, but now that the tan curtains are up, and the paintings and tapestries are on the wall and the knickknack shelf is in place, it's toned down a bit. Still needs furniture though.

The evening sun comes in the right side of my office pretty brightly. I'm going to need to put up some shades or something there. Other than that, the office is very cool and shadowed.

In the evening, the family came over for dinner, and Susan made sweet and sour chicken. Epril bought a chocolate cake while she was in Cagayan De Oro for dessert.

Madeleine, Fatima, and Epril.
At night, two of Epril's friends from high school, Madeline and Fatima, came over to visit. Epril and Ednil, Madeline and Fatima were out in the street playing badminton (a popular pastime) at about 9:00, while I stood at the front gate watching. A drunk guy came by and started bugging me for money, and wouldn't leave me alone. I smiled and was polite and just kept asking him to leave, but when he turned his attention to the girls, my politeness level dropped precipitously, and I was about ready to put him on the ground. Fortunately, drunk guy figured out it was time to move on at that point, and it was also at that point that the folks in the neighborhood figured out that it was time to save the drunk guy from himself, and everything deescalated at that point.

So after that, the girls sat up on the terrace and chatted while I climbed into bed and read my book, "A Filipino History."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Daily Report: Life In Boxes

We're out of the old house, but we're into the new house in location only: Nothing is unpacked / settled / established yet.

Our rooftop terrace with the bamboo
furniture we purchased. We're going
to put a jungle's worth of tropical
bushes and flowers in pots up here to
give the place more of a garden feel.
I bought a 4 x 4 meter pavilion tent to put up on the roof, which should have fit. Unfortunately, the 4 meter measurement is at the "roof line", while the 4 legs each splay outwards by about 6 or 8 inches, making my floor-based measurements off by about a foot. Fortunately, the speedy employment of a welder to chop some width off the crossmembers fixed that problem.

My new electric scooter. About 40
cents of charge will give 30 miles.
I made my official Jil Impulse Purchase (JIP) of 2009: An electric scooter. I'm making payments on it for the next 6 months, purchased from a lawyer friend of mine who has been selling them here in Cagayan De Oro. By my most conservative calculations, the bike gets the equivalent of 200 miles per gallon (based on a function of "cents per mile"). It is limited to only about 15 miles round trip... 30 miles total for 2 passengers, but is fantastic for getting around Jasaan and the immediate vicinity. The bike is totally silent in operation, and that fact has garnered it more attention from the locals than anything else I've ever seen.

Less than 24 hours after having the scooter delivered, little Doreen knocked it over while climbing on it, snapping off the rear view mirror — after being told 3 times prior not to climb on it — and earning herself her first official Jil Impulse Spanking (JIS) of 2009.

Epril and I went to Kingston Lodge for lunch today (just for a change). We rode halfway with our landlord, Jams, and we rode the second half with Andy and Cynthia.

Along the way there, we stopped and looked at the couch and bed being made. Contrary to my fears, they both look fantastic. I think the knowledge that adding/subtracting from my design meant a certain do-over got the furniture maker in the spirit of following my drawings precisely. The headboard on the bed is still being carved by the local artisan and it's a mystery how that will turn out... but I'm now optimistic. The couch should be delivered on Monday or Tuesday. The bed has no estimated date of arrival yet.

After Kingston Lodge, we went with Andy and Cynthia to SM to do some shopping. We bought curtains for the windows (all 7 of them) in the master bedroom and master bathroom ($100), and also stocked up on diet root beer, diet Cali (a pineapple soda), tomato juice, apple juice, et cetera, et cetera for the next 2 weeks ($100), and then Andy and Cynthia gave us a ride back to Jasaan with our 80 pounds of groceries. Then we all sat up on the terrace and drank iced tea and enjoyed the view.

The satellite television was hooked up today as well. I've got The History Channel back, much to my delight. The picture/reception is not as good as it was with the local cable company (about 80% as good, I'd say), and there are only about 10 channels that I watch (out of 38) versus about 15 channels (out of 70) from before. But, it's the only option I have out here, and overall I'm satisfied with it. Also, unlike the local cable, the satellite does have the program guide, so that you can look at what's on and what will be on for each channel in an on-screen menu.

Well anyway, I'm in my new office. This is the eighth view I've had since moving to Asia 7 years ago, and I must say that it is by far one of the best. There is just so much green in front of me... and people down below always coming and going. There is a nice breeze as well. (I tried to stitch a panorama photo together, with the not-so-good results as seen below. They give one an okay impression of the view from my new office.) The local fire department just drove by below my window, sirens blaring, and all the firemen on their scooters beeping their horns. A big banner on the pumper truck proclaimed March to be "Fire Prevention Month".

Anyway, as I said, the living room and bedroom and TV room are still a shambles, filled with boxes, and waiting for furniture. As each of those gets fitted out and set up, I'll put up pictures of them as well.